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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Battleground 2017


In a time when RAW is finally figuring out just what to do with their infinitely deeper roster, when SmackDown's work was more than cut out for them, Battleground was not the coup the Blue Brand absolutely needed heading into SummerSlam.

After establishing themselves as the Land of Opportunity—that is, a place where stories made more sense, most wrestlers got opportunities (even when they were doing little), and most things felt earned and hardworking—SmackDown really needed to turn it up and go all in on Battleground. They were trying new risks with guys like Jinder Mahal trying to hold up his run as WWE Champion, or Baron Corbin building up his stock alongside a legend in Shinsuke Nakamura also finding his footing.

Battleground came in with some considerable hype, but most things felt undercooked. The wrestling was sound, and SmackDown's roster was utilized, but only to an extent—the intent was there, but the team behind the scenes didn't seem to have taken the steps to make sure their plans would go off without a hitch. It's like they were winging it the rest of the way.


It feels like it's always a matter of having the right pieces in the right places, but not always making the right moves. Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton had all the elements to make a memorable Punjabi Prison match, but nobody told them to try and kill each other. Sami Zayn versus Mike Kanellis was not a bad match, but it was at the wrong place in between two big matches (and an already-effective Fashion Files vignette). Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin merely ended in a disappointing disqualification. John Cena and Rusev tried to make the most of their flag match, but it was a goddamned flag match

With projects like these, where nothing less than certain success is necessary for what is largely an unproven SmackDown roster trying to get over, every step has to be calculated. Everything has to go the extra mile and not be left to chance; right now it feels like everyone is wading across muck doing what they have to do. That's not to say that everything has to be micromanaged down to the last sentence, but the team shouldn't be sleeping on all the important decisions. Writers need to do more work, agents need to make more of the right calls when it comes to what needs to happen inside the ring, and the bigger direction of the show has to be tightened up again.

SummerSlam is still weeks away, and at the time of this writing, the post-Battleground episode of SmackDown has yet to happen. This is WWE, and their weekly brand of pro wrestling has never gotten in the way of fixing what needs to be fixed. There's still time. C+ 

Match of the Night

To no one's surprise, the SmackDown Tag Team Championship match steals the show again, being golden from top to bottom—from the way the match was wrestled to the New Day finally winning the titles and how they won. It feels like the SmackDown tag division is the only thing about the brand that's going 100% right. 




*****

  • A Punjabi Prison match is pretty much a bamboo Hell in a Cell, so why are they wrestling it like a wrestling match? I thought these two hated each other? Shouldn't they be beating the ever-living hell out of one another? This was underscored by the fact that it started getting fun when Orton was thrashing the Singhs at ringside.
  • But really, that match had the right amount of booked surprises. All that's left now is to tie the whole thing together with the bow that is Jinder planning all of that way in advance. If we're going to go the route of Jinder being a heel who can't get things done by himself, we might as well still write it as him getting it done by himself by formulating this entire master plan of the Singhs hiding under the ring and Khali being a contingency plan. You might as well make him the Punjabi Triple H; that much at least he can carry with his acting.
  • It's time we stop forcing Nakamura to stick strictly to the WWE way of wrestling a match. He needs to start speaking his wrestling language in the ring—which doesn't even necessarily have to be a complete variation on the traditional American style—so he could start standing out. Why couldn't Baron Corbin be the American Ishii? This matchup looked so good on paper, but felt like a clunker because Shinskay just isn't doing that well with the WWE formula. Let them fight.
  • Natalya makes sense as Naomi's next challenger, but where does that leave the rest of the ladies?
  • It seems like a random result, but I like Aiden English getting the win over Tye Dillinger. It's at least another story on the show.
  • Again, that Flag Match was wrestled to the best of their abilities. It's just really what it is, but Cena's a good enough veteran to figure out how to milk it the best way they can.
  • The AJ Styles/Kevin Owens match ended flatly thanks to the fiasco that happened in the finish, but this little accident might end up being good for the SmackDown midcard. If you're still going for a Styles/Cena title feud at SummerSlam, you might as well involve Kevin Owens and/or Rusev in that match. Yes, that would make for the second Fatal Four-Way in the card should Lesnar/Reigns/Joe/Strowman for the Universal title still happen, but SmackDown gets the blockbuster title match it deserves, too. Or we could just have Cena challenge Jinder for the title. Either way, there are a lot of pieces that could be rearranged thanks to the botched finish, and it's up to the blue team to figure out what they'll do with them.


      Photo from WWE
      *****

      Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul. He likes taking your wrestling questions over on his CuriousCat account.

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